Developing your English for university after IELTS General Training
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Developing your English for work after IELTS General Training

One of my former students has become a good friend of mine. Many years ago, he hired me as a private tutor to work with him towards the General Training version of the IELTS test. He needed the test to apply for a visa to Australia in order to start a job as a carpenter. I still remember that in one of the first messages they sent from Australia they talked about how kind and helpful everybody was, but how unprepared he felt for so many elements of life there. How at work he still had to use his hands a lot to communicate with his colleagues, how difficult it was to make real friends, and how simple tasks like making a phone call posed a real problem. A few months after that, I had another email and I was astonished at how much better my friend’s English had become and how much more comfortable he was at expressing himself. He told me that now he really understood how everything he learned had an immediate application, it was much easier to remember language and he was much more motivated to invest time in developing his language skills. When I asked him what he would do differently about preparing for the test he said that he would make it more about himself and that he would look beyond the test itself to understand how everything he studied would help him in real life.  As a non-native speaker of English myself, I couldn’t agree more! As I put it in a recent blog for test-takers preparing for the Academic version of the test: Think of the IELTS test as an airport to your real destination. While it’s important to make sure you have your ticket, passport, vaccinations, visa, and anything else you need to get through the controls, you’ll also want to know what to do at the other end of your journey. Here are some of my top tips: 1. Start by looking at your future life in your own language Find out as much as you can about the place you want to live in, what kind of things people do there, what kind of things you think you might enjoy doing there yourself. Find out what local delicacies the region is famous for, find out what sports people play, a little bit about the history of the place. Start making it real for you, because if you know that you will be living in a ‘mountainous’ region, it will be so much easier to remember the word. 2. For your reading in English, find a text that’s relevant to your future life where a reliable translation exists Read the text first in your own language and then in English. You’ll be surprised how much easier vocabulary and ideas fall into place and because they are relevant to who you are, or who you want to be, things will be much easier to memorise. 3. Prepare specifically for your future job or occupation For example, if you want to work in a restaurant, study everything from the furniture (e.g. barstool) to the names of vegetables (e.g. brussels sprouts). This may not feel immediately relevant for the test, but by thinking about how you would talk about these things, you will increase your fluency and confidence.  4. Study vocabulary that means something to you For example, if you’re a big football fan, make sure you can follow English football commentary on TV, or if you have children, consider how you would talk about them to other parents. (Look up the word ‘tantrum’ you’ll probably need it!) 5. Start researching the kind of communities you will be joining My friend, for example, always wanted to learn to play cricket but it took him quite some time to find a team when he arrived in Australia. Now, he does a lot of socialising with his cricket teammates, something that would’ve been really helpful on arriving in the country. His wife, on the other hand, started volunteering at a local animal shelter straight away because she had already been in touch with them before leaving their home country. And she found it much easier to settle in and make friends. 6. Spend some time considering the kinds of language activities you will need to engage in including business phone conversations or registering your child for childcare.  Looking beyond the test to your future life will make it much easier to understand how the things you study for the IELTS test can be used in real life. This will not only help your motivation, but also your language retention. It’s also important to remember that in language learning nothing is ever wasted. Even if you don’t always get to use everything in the test, you will, sooner or later need it for what really matters. Good luck on your journey! Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 October, 2020

Developing your English for work after IELTS General Training

Developing your English for university after IELTS General Training

One of my former students has become a good friend of mine. Many years ago, he hired me as a private tutor to work with him towards the General Training version of the IELTS test. He needed the test to apply for a visa to Australia in order to start a job as a carpenter.

I still remember that in one of the first messages they sent from Australia they talked about how kind and helpful everybody was, but how unprepared he felt for so many elements of life there. How at work he still had to use his hands a lot to communicate with his colleagues, how difficult it was to make real friends, and how simple tasks like making a phone call posed a real problem.

A few months after that, I had another email and I was astonished at how much better my friend’s English had become and how much more comfortable he was at expressing himself. He told me that now he really understood how everything he learned had an immediate application, it was much easier to remember language and he was much more motivated to invest time in developing his language skills. When I asked him what he would do differently about preparing for the test he said that he would make it more about himself and that he would look beyond the test itself to understand how everything he studied would help him in real life. 

As a non-native speaker of English myself, I couldn’t agree more! As I put it in a recent blog for test-takers preparing for the Academic version of the test: Think of the IELTS test as an airport to your real destination. While it’s important to make sure you have your ticket, passport, vaccinations, visa, and anything else you need to get through the controls, you’ll also want to know what to do at the other end of your journey.

Here are some of my top tips:

1. Start by looking at your future life in your own language

Find out as much as you can about the place you want to live in, what kind of things people do there, what kind of things you think you might enjoy doing there yourself. Find out what local delicacies the region is famous for, find out what sports people play, a little bit about the history of the place. Start making it real for you, because if you know that you will be living in a ‘mountainous’ region, it will be so much easier to remember the word.

2. For your reading in English, find a text that’s relevant to your future life where a reliable translation exists

Read the text first in your own language and then in English. You’ll be surprised how much easier vocabulary and ideas fall into place and because they are relevant to who you are, or who you want to be, things will be much easier to memorise.

3. Prepare specifically for your future job or occupation

For example, if you want to work in a restaurant, study everything from the furniture (e.g. barstool) to the names of vegetables (e.g. brussels sprouts). This may not feel immediately relevant for the test, but by thinking about how you would talk about these things, you will increase your fluency and confidence. 

4. Study vocabulary that means something to you

For example, if you’re a big football fan, make sure you can follow English football commentary on TV, or if you have children, consider how you would talk about them to other parents. (Look up the word ‘tantrum’ you’ll probably need it!)

5. Start researching the kind of communities you will be joining

My friend, for example, always wanted to learn to play cricket but it took him quite some time to find a team when he arrived in Australia. Now, he does a lot of socialising with his cricket teammates, something that would’ve been really helpful on arriving in the country. His wife, on the other hand, started volunteering at a local animal shelter straight away because she had already been in touch with them before leaving their home country. And she found it much easier to settle in and make friends.

6. Spend some time considering the kinds of language activities you will need to engage in including business phone conversations or registering your child for childcare. 

Looking beyond the test to your future life will make it much easier to understand how the things you study for the IELTS test can be used in real life. This will not only help your motivation, but also your language retention. It’s also important to remember that in language learning nothing is ever wasted. Even if you don’t always get to use everything in the test, you will, sooner or later need it for what really matters.

Good luck on your journey!
Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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